Human Development Report, 2019

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Context: India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) improving from the 130th position in 2018.

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS I-

  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women's organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems, and their remedies. Effects of globalization on Indian society Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

About Human Development Report :

  • Human Development Report is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The indices that form the part of the 2019 Report are:
    • Human Development Index (HDI)
    • Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI),
    • Gender Development Index (GDI),
    • Gender Inequality Index (GII) and
    • Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

  • The focus of the 2019 Report is on ‘Inequality in Human Development’.
  • The underlying principle of the HDR, considered pathbreaking in 1990, (created by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq) is elegantly simple: National development should be measured not only by income per capita but also by health and education achievements.
  • The HDI is the composite measure of every country’s attainment in three basic dimensions:
    • Standard of living measured by the gross national income (GNI) per capita.
    • Health measured by the life expectancy at birth.
    • Education levels calculated by mean years of education among the adult population and the expected years of schooling for children.

  • This index makes it possible to follow changes in development levels over time and to compare the development levels of different countries.
  • Additional indices have been developed to capture other dimensions of human development to identify groups falling behind in human progress and to monitor the distribution of human development.
  • In 2010 three indices were launched to monitor poverty, inequality and gender empowerment across multiple human development dimensions
    • The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI),
    • The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI)
    • The Gender Inequality Index (GII).
  • In 2014 the Gender Development Index (GDI) was introduced.


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN's global development network. It provides expert advice, training and grants support to developing countries, with an increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed.UNDP India's country programme for 2018-2022 has three major focus areas: Inclusive growth, Environment and energy, Strengthening systems and institutions countries.


Human Development Index:

  • HDI emphasizes that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.
  • HDI measures average achievement of a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
    • A long and healthy life,
    • Access to knowledge, and
    • A decent standard of living.
  • Top Performers in 2019:
    • Norway, Switzerland, Ireland occupied the top three positions in that order.
    • Germany is placed fourth along with Hong Kong, and Australia secured the fifth rank on the global ranking.
  • India’s Performance:
    • India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) 
    • India’s HDI value increased by 50% (from 0.431 to 0.647), which places it above the average for other South Asian countries (0.642).
    • In India, between 1990 and 2018, life expectancy at birth increased by 11.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.7 years. Per capita incomes rose by over 250%.
  • India’s Neighbours:
    • Sri Lanka (71) and China (85) were higher up the rank scale.
    • Bhutan (134), Bangladesh (135), Myanmar (145), Nepal (147), Pakistan (152) and Afghanistan (170) were ranked lower on the list.
  • Region-Wise Performance:
    • South Asia was the fastest-growing region in human development progress witnessing a 46% growth over 1990-2018, followed by East Asia and the Pacific at 43%.



Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index:

  • The IHDI indicates percentage loss in HDI due to inequality.
  • The greater the inequality, the lower the IHDI.
  • India’s position worsened by one position to 130 (as compared to the HDI Index 2019- 2018) with a score of 0.477. Although, the IHDI score has improved from 0.468 in 2018.

Gender Development Index:

  • GDI measures disparities on the HDI by gender.
  • India is only marginally better than the South Asian average on the Gender Development Index (0.829 vs 0.828).

Gender Inequality Index

  • GII presents a composite measure of gender inequality using three dimensions:
    • Reproductive health,
    • Empowerment and
    • The labour market.
  • Ratio of female to male HDI values.
  • In GII, India is at 122 out of 162 countries.
  • India’s Neighbours:
    • Neighbours China (39), Sri Lanka (86), Bhutan (99), Myanmar (106) were placed above India.
  • The report noted that group-based inequalities persist, especially affecting women and girls and no place in the world has gender equality.
  • The report notes that the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 as per the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG -5). It forecasts that it may take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity.
  • The report presents a new “social norms index” indicating how prejudices and social beliefs obstruct gender equality, which shows that only 14% of women and 10% of men worldwide have no gender bias.
  • The report highlights that new forms of inequalities will manifest in future through climate change and technological transformation which have the potential to deepen existing social and economic fault lines.

Multidimensional Poverty Index:

  • MPI captures the multiple deprivations that people in developing countries face in their health, education and standard of living.
  • India accounts for 28% of the 1.3 billion multidimensional poor.


Limitations of HDI:

  • It provides a limited evaluation of human development which is much beyond the parameters considered for its measurement.
  • It does not specifically reflect the quality of life factors, such as empowerment movements or overall feelings of security.
  • In recognition of these facts, the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) provides additional composite indices to evaluate other life aspects, including inequality issues such as gender disparity or racial inequality.
  • So, examination and evaluation of a country's HDI are best done in coordination with examining other factors, such as the country's rate of economic growth, expansion of employment opportunities, the success of initiatives etc undertaken to improve the overall quality of life within a country.


  • Inequalities in human development — a grave challenge to progress:
    • Human development gaps reflect unequal opportunity in access to education, health, employment, credit and natural resources due to gender, group identity, income disparities and location.
    • It can fuel extremism and undermine support for inclusive and sustainable development
    • It can have adverse consequences for social cohesion and the quality of institutions and policies
    • Inequality in income contributes the most to overall inequality, followed by education and life expectancy.
    • When accounting inequality, global HDI value of 0.728 falls to 0.582 which represents a drop from the high human development category to the medium.
    • The average HDI value for women (0.705) is 5.9 percent lower than that for men (0.749).
    • Much of the gap is due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries which is widest in low human development countries with average HDI value is 13.8 percent lower for women than for men.
    • Life expectancy averages 79.5 years in very high human development countries, compared with 60.8 in low human development countries.
  • Not Quantity but Quality:
    • Achievements in human development should be expressed not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality. As the increase in any absolute number does not necessarily transpire as an increase in the quality.
    • Despite witnessing a great increase in the number of avg. years in school since the 1990s it transpires little as improved capabilities. This contrast is starker in low human development countries.
  • Environmental degradation:
    • Degradation of the environment is linked to other development concerns ranging from declining food and water supplies to losses of livelihood and to losses of life from extreme weather events.
    • Countries with higher HDI are the biggest contributor to climate change.

Takeaways of 2019 HDR (Human Development Report)

  • Significant increase in the development indicators can be seen throughout the nations. But the quality of human development reveals large deficits.
  • Progress is not linear or guaranteed, and crises and challenges can reverse gains.
  • Great Disparities between women and men in realizing their full potential.
  • Progress in human development cannot be sustained without addressing environmental degradation and climate change.

Way Forward:

  • India’s HDI has increased tremendously in the last two and half decades. However,  we need to focus on inequality and the pockets of deprivation that are dragging the HDI down for achieving development for all and the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind.
  • Gender inequality is another big issue which adversely affects human development. So the development schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, Stand-up India etc. would be crucial in ensuring the upward trend of human development.
  • Deteriorating air quality in major Indian cities and its impacts on human health are also worrying.
  • There should be more sensitization towards eco-friendly solutions for mobility like the recent Global Mobility Summit to make a transition towards sustainable alternatives for transport.
  • Climate change is likely to increase migration, displacement and negatively affect livelihoods. As the solution lies in innovation, so the government with all the stakeholders including community participation should create an ecosystem that fosters creative thinking and innovation to make India climate change resilient.
  • Human development to become truly sustainable, the world needs to break with business-as-usual approaches and adopt sustainable production and consumption patterns.

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